Sure to be Sally Struthers’s all-time favorite film, Danny Boyle’s Millions concerns a pint-sized English lad named Damian (Alexander Nathan Etel) who mysteriously comes into possession of a dufflebag full of cash and, by film’s end, has found a way to spend it on water-deprived Ethiopians. An imaginative boy who’s recently lost his mother and moved to a new planned community with his grieving dad (James Nesbitt) and older brother Anthony (Lewis Owen McGibbon), Damian believes the money—which crash-lands on his cardboard box-constructed hideout situated next to railroad tracks—is a gift from God, and thus sets about attempting to perform His will by giving it away to the needy and poor before the pound becomes obsolete (in favor of the euro) on Christmas day. Things become complicated, however, when he and Anthony discover that the money is actually stolen loot. Damian’s altruism is also offset by his brother’s rampant materialism, yet Boyle’s children’s fable (written by Frank Cottrell Boyle) wisely avoids taking a high-and-mighty stand against Anthony’s desire for toys, games, and real estate (which he thinks is a sound investment) even as it makes clear its preference for Damian’s charitable virtues. Unfortunately, while Millions’ adolescent stars remain just this side of unbearably cloying, Boyle—a director given to hyperkinetic camera calisthenics—can’t reign himself in long enough to let his actors’ performances breathe. Visualizing Damian’s fantasies (about their house being built, about blasting off in a rocket ship) with rapid-fire CGI, Boyle makes the boy’s magical inventions literal, a problem compounded by the regular appearance of historical saints who slyly counsel Damian on the right path to follow. Faith and hope are the real currency traded by Millions, but for every sincere moment—the quick image of pillows in Damian’s dad’s bed functioning as placeholders for his deceased wife is a quiet stunner—there’s at least one hopelessly silly gaffe such as the breathy Friday the 13th-style music that signals the imminent arrival of the thief (Christopher Fulford) stalking Damian and the money. Its whimsy is too forced to ever truly enchant, but given the devalued state of current Hollywood kid’s pictures, Boyle’s lighthearted fairy tale nonetheless slightly outperforms the market.
- Danny Boyle
- Frank Cottrell Boyce
- Alexander Nathan Etel, Lewis Owen McGibbon, James Nesbitt, Daisy Donovan, Christopher Fulford, Jane Hogarth, Harry Kirkham, Alun Armstrong, Enzo Cilenti
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